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Nursing responds to shortage

Djamila Grossman/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Nursing senior Dana Hubbard practices her skills on a dummy at the High Acuity Care nursing class Tuesday. The College of Nursing is in the middle of expanding its facilities and student numbers.
By Djamila Grossman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, October 20, 2005
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College hopes to double caregiver enrollment by 2007

Amid a statewide nursing shortage, the College of Nursing hopes to relieve part of the crisis by doubling its student enrollment by 2007.

"The shortage exists, it exponentially goes up," said Judith Brown, director of Development and Community affairs at the College of Nursing. "It is already at a point where patient care is not at the level that hospitals would like to be providing."

The college launched a new program to fight the shortage and has expanded its facilities to accommodate the resulting increase of students, Brown said.

Marjorie Isenberg, dean of the college, kicked off the Accelerated Partnership Program two years ago, which allows holders of a bachelor's degree in any field to acquire a nursing degree within 14 months.

There are 64 students enrolled in the Accelerated Partnership Program, and by 2007 the college expects the number to reach 100, Brown said.

Right now the College of Nursing accepts 100 students a year, but with the addition of the partnership program that admits 100 more, the college will double its enrollment, Brown said.

The partnership program engages students with the University Medical Center, the Tucson Hospital Center and Carondelet Health Network. Students intern at one of the hospitals and then commit to working there for two years after graduation. In turn, the hospitals contribute $27,500 per student to the college, Brown said.

The program was implemented in response to a 2003 state bill that requires nursing colleges to double student numbers in light of the statewide shortage. While the problem is not confined to Arizona, the nurse-to-patient ratio is particularly low in the state, according to a study released in 2003 by Gov. Janet Napolitano's Nursing Task Force.

But to increase enrollment through the partnership program, the college has to gain space by remodeling its Patient Care Learning Center without additional state funds, Brown said.

A fundraiser has brought in $1 million within the last year, and another $600,000 is needed to make ends meet for expanding the rooms and facilities inside the building, Brown said.

"The response from the community has been superb and we are well underway towards the $1.6 million goal," Brown said.

Marty Enriquez, vice president of patient care services at UMC, said the hospital has less vacant nursing positions than others in the area because it is a nationally recognized trauma center.

But the facility is also planning expansions in the near future that will require UMC to increase its nursing staff, Enriquez said.

The hospital currently employs 48 nurses from the Accelerated Partnership Program. These nurses are "popular" because they are mature and well prepared for the work, Enriquez said.

"We are very pleased to have them there," Enriquez said. "Dean Isenberg has certainly reached out in partnership with the community, and we are proud of working with the university."

The advantages of the program are that students will work with their future employees before graduation and have a guaranteed position afterward, which means many will be staying in Southern Arizona, Brown said.

"It's a win-win situation and everybody is happy," Brown said. "We have requests from all the hospitals to fill all the slots. (They) are more than willing to continue the partnership."

The total number of students in the College of Nursing has increased from 440 to 482 since last year, including the bachelor's, master's, post master's and Ph.D. programs, Brown said.

Brown said 305 undergraduates are enrolled in the bachelor's program specifically, up from 298 in 2004, including students from the Accelerated Learning Program.

Paige Delnoce, a nursing senior, said she chose to come to the UA because of the good reputation of the nursing college. Even though she doesn't have classes with students from the Accelerated Partnership Program, she thinks it is a good idea that will not erase the nursing shortage but help ease problems in Arizona.

"It's a really good school with really good professors, and it was nice to know that I would definitely have a job upon graduation," Delnoce said, who plans to eventually work in Phoenix.

Joey Ridenour, executive director of the Arizona State Board of Nursing, said there has been an increase in nursing enrollment at Arizona institutions since the nursing bill passed in 2003.

But the nursing shortage is still a long-term issue, and educational institutions and the Legislature need to continue working together, Ridenour said.

"I don't think there is a magic bullet to this," Ridenour said.

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